FAA Says Pax Are Fatter

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The FAA has recognized the growing girth of Americans by revising weight-and-balance estimates used for loading aircraft. Under current guidelines, an adult passenger flying in winter is estimated to weigh 185 pounds, including clothing and carry-on luggage, while the same passenger is calculated at 180 pounds during summer travel. Recently, the FAA ordered 15 airlines to check passenger weights. The survey showed that passengers and their bags generally are heavier than the estimates by 20.63 pounds, carry-on bags were higher by 5.72 pounds and domestic checked bags by 3.81 pounds. After reviewing the results of its survey, the FAA released new guidelines on Monday, adding 10 pounds to its estimate for passengers and five pounds to luggage. In addition, checked bags now will be estimated to weigh 30 pounds rather than 25. The new guidelines come as the NTSB released more information on the crash of a Beech 1900D airliner in Charlotte, N.C., earlier this year, in which it was suggested that weight-and-balance issues may have been a factor. You may remember AVweb's first report on the crash of US Airways Flight 5481, a commuter flight with 19 passengers and two crew aboard operated by Air Midwest, out of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. Destined for Greenville-Spartanburg, the Beech crashed immediately after takeoff, killing all 21 on board. From the beginning, the aircraft's weight and balance was scrutinized, but preliminary reports, and a subsequent AD, suggest problems with the rigging of the elevator. Under the new guidelines some airlines changed their weight estimates and now carry only 18 passengers on a 19-seat plane. Airlines, which have 90 days to implement the new guidelines, will have the option of using their own estimates if they survey their passengers' weight, which is sure to be a popular line of questioning at the check-in counter.